Call on the Attorney-General to suspend all prosecutions on the 4,290 National Service dodgers until the Select Committee on Unity and National Service had accomplished its terms of reference and submitted its findings and report to Parliament
- on the motion on a Select Committee on Unity and National Service
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday): Today is the last day of the first session of the 11th Parliament elected on March 21, 2004, which will be marked by two parliamentary initiatives: the formation of the Select Committee on Unity and National Service which we are now debating and the establishment of the all-party Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights, which was set up just before lunch, comprising:
I wish to take this opportunity to thank 15 other MPs from all political parties who have expressed their support for the formation of the caucus and are members of the 22-MP Caucus.
When the 11th Parliament was first opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on May 17, all MPs and political parties represented in Parliament expressed support for the vision to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament – which must mean a far-reaching and wide-ranging programme of parliamentary reform and modernization.
In the debate on the Royal Address on May 20, I had proposed that the first meeting of the 11th Parliament should set up at least ten Select Committees to demonstrate the seriousness of the commitment to make the Malaysian Parliament a “First World Parliament” as well as to show the nation and the world the difference of the new Parliament in setting a serious pace of parliamentary reform and modernization.
These ten Select Committees I had proposed were:
After three parliamentary meetings from May to December and on the last day of the first Session (apart from the special Parliament meeting on the Constitution Amendment Bill which I understand will be on January 17 and 18, 2005), Parliament has not yet adopted any agenda to embark on far-reaching parliamentary reforms and modernization – in particular modernizing the procedures, practices and conventions to make the Malaysian Parliament a first-world Parliament which is regarded by Malaysians as fully relevant and responsive to their deepest hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares.
There are vast areas awaiting parliamentary reform and modernization. Some eight years ago, I had already said that Parliament should lead the country in ICT, with the parliamentary homepage the model not only for public but also private websites, and not be a leading cobwebsite! I just saw a Malaysiakini report about the mistakes and inaccurancies galore on the Parliamentary website, such as the Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Ong Ka Ting described as being from UMNO, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim being described as the Internal Security Minister.
It is not completely a blank page, however, for we have by the end of the first session of the 11th Parliament, established two Select Committees and three cross-party Parliamentary Caucuses firstly, on promoting democracy in Myanmar, secondly, the situation in South Thailand and thirdly, on human rights.
I hope that the stage has been set for the second session of the 11th Parliament, beginning next March, to build on the present momentum to establish more Parliamentary Select Committees, not only on specific subject issues, but also to shadow each Ministry as is the common practice in First-World Parliaments in other countries, including the re-establishment of the Parliamentary Caucuses into Parliamentary Select Committees, whether on Myanmar, South Thailand or Human Rights.
On the establishment of the Select Committee on Unity and National Service, I have mixed feelings. I welcome the belated establishment of this Select Committee, as it was the first two of the Select Committees which I had proposed to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in our discussions before the official opening of the 11th Parliament on 17th May, 2004.
I was disappointed that the second Select Committee had taken some seven months to materialize, when the first Select Committee on the Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code was established in the first meeting of Parliament in the middle of the year.
But my mixed feelings about the second Select Committee goes further than its seven-month delay, affecting its very scope and terms of reference.
Somehow, in the past seven months, the objective of the Select Committee, viz. national unity and integration, with the Select Committee starting on the national service as its first subject of examination and recommendation in view of the controversy it had thrown up, had taken a subtle but a major shift. As worded in the motion on the Select Committee, the focus is on the national service programme, with the national service dimension a collateral issue.
Let me quote from a Bernama report dated May 21, 2004 to prove my point. The report, entitled “Govt To Set Up Select Committee On Unity”, said:
“KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 (Bernama) -- The government will set up
a Select Committee comprising Barisan Nasional and opposition Members of
Parliament to discuss issues on national unity, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said
I will not object to the establishment of this Select Committee although I am not happy with the text of the motion, restricting the scope and terms of reference from the original intention of being the widest possible with national service as one of the subjects it is to deal with into one where national service programme is its rasion d’etre, with national unity coming within its purview only if it is an aspect or dimension of the national service programme.
I agree however that there is an urgent need for such a Select Committee to be established, so that it could start work immediately, although I urge the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to seriously propose an amendment motion in the next meeting of Parliament to bring the Select Committee into alignment with the original objective that it should be on National Unity and Integration, with the national service programme its first subject of examination.
The Select Committee should be required to submit a report to the House at least once a year, and its life should be for as long as the life-span of the present Parliament.
I would urge the Select Committee, on its establishment, to support the call on the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Gani Patail to suspend all prosecutions on the 4,290 National Service dodgers until the Select Committee on Unity and National Service had accomplished its terms of reference and submitted its findings and report to Parliament.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman